Knights set school record in win over Orrville

Knights set school record in win over Orrville
Justin Smith

West Holmes hasn’t lost a regular-season game since September 2020. The Knights made it 23 consecutive regular-season wins by beating Orrville on Aug. 25, breaking the previous school record of 22, which was set from 1981-83.


Before his team’s game against Orrville, West Holmes football coach Zach Gardner talked to his players about facing and overcoming adversity.

Gardner’s words proved to be prophetic as the Knights trailed by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter.

But his players rose to the task in the final quarter to pull out a 35-31 victory on Aug. 25 at West Holmes High School.

The win carried much more significance than a typical early-season victory. It was WH’s 23rd consecutive regular-season win, breaking the previous school record of 22, which was set from 1981-83.

“I’m so proud of the way we came out and took every punch (Orrville) had and took every circumstance that unfolded in that game,” Gardner said. “There were some weird bounces during that game that didn’t go our way, and our kids came out and did it. I’m just so proud of them.”

Getting his program to this place didn’t happen overnight.

The Knights went 3-7 overall during Gardner’s first season at the helm in 2017. They made a drastic improvement the following year and finished 8-3 with a postseason appearance before falling back to a 3-7 record in 2019.

Things turned back around in 2020 when they finished 7-3 and reached the Division III regional semifinals. That’s also when the current regular-season winning streak began with a 35-14 victory over Ashland on Oct. 2.

Two undefeated regular seasons and 22 more consecutive wins have followed that October 2020 game.

“Everything is about culture,” Gardner said. “Whether it’s a workplace or a classroom or a football team, everything is about culture. It’s about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Our kids know what they need to do to prepare themselves to play at a high level.

“They go out and do that.”

When Gardner was hired as head coach in December 2016, he sat down with his players and had them look up at the football banner in the high school gymnasium.

“We said, ‘Guys, we’re putting numbers on those banners. We’re going to work to be the best we can be because that’s what Holmes County deserves — the best football program that they can have,’” Gardner said.

Gardner and his players have certainly delivered by providing an entertaining brand of football every Friday night. They score points in bunches. They hit hard on defense. And they win a lot of games — 23 in a row to be exact.

“You surround yourself with great people,” Gardner said about how he developed a successful program. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great coaches, a lot of great players and a lot of great parents that let us coach their kids hard. It’s something that’s very exciting.”

Although it’s the players of the past few years who have made on-field contributions toward the current winning streak, the foundation was laid by previous players.

“Hard work, investment by so many players, our players that have played for us the last seven years, the older guys that set the foundation for this, our guys the past couple years just buying into it, our coaches, our parents, our community (and) our administration (have all been key to the winning streak),” Gardner said.

West Holmes currently has the fifth-longest regular-season winning streak in Ohio. Wyoming (69), Kirtland (57), Marion Local (30) and Badin (30) are the only teams with longer current winning streaks.

Not bad company to keep.

“(Being prepared for every game) is a lot of work,” Gardner said. “It’s having kids that are willing to be coached hard and know a game plan and go out and execute. I’m very proud of our kids.”

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